No English, no problem: Retired couple from China takes extraordinary road trip in US

Chen Aiwu, 64, and her husband, Wang Dongsheng, 66, at Yellowstone Park in June.
Chen Aiwu, 64, and her husband, Wang Dongsheng, 66, at Yellowstone Park in June. PHOTO: CHEN AIWU

A retired Chinese couple in their 60s, despite barely speaking English, embarked on a 19-day long road trip in the United States - and had the time of their life.

Former bus driver Chen Aiwu, 64, and her husband Wang Dongsheng, 66, began their adventure in June, landing in Los Angeles, California, with a plan to travel through the West Coast of the US, driving to Las Vegas, Yosemite, San Francisco, Yellowstone Park and the Hoover Dam.

According to the Washington Post, the couple from Wuhan, Hubei province, planned their trip months in advance, going through travel blogs for tips, buying SIM cards and a navigation system online.

Chen did the driving while Wang took care of the navigation, and despite their limited knowledge of English, were undeterred by the challenges of getting around in a strange country.

Chen told China Daily: "We're not afraid. We're just as adventurous as Westerners."

They wrote down the addresses they needed and, according to the Washington Post, English phrases such as "How much?" and "Where is the bathroom?" as well.

The couple, who spent just 10,000 yuan (S$2,000) on the trip, brought along their own rice cooker, in case the food in the US proved too unfamiliar, and also to help them save on expenses.

One thing that stood out for them during the trip was the kindness they received.

When they accidentally drifted more than 60km away from their destination and found themselves lost in the mountains of Arizona, two men offered their help by giving them directions.

But when the directions were not understood, the men had the couple follow them in their car to the hotel they were looking for.

Chen told the Washington Post: "Our only regret on the journey was not having the opportunity to say 'Thank you' and take a photo with those who helped us. We were afraid we might offend them by asking to take a picture together."

Chen, who said she learnt what "good morning" meant only after hearing the greeting from a stranger in a grocery store, said she was fascinated by people's behaviour in the US.

She told the Washington Post: "If we spot a foreigner in China, people surround them and look. But people treated us normally."

The couple, who have previously driven cross country to Tibet and through countries in South-east Asia, plan to drive through Central Asia to Europe next year, according to China Daily.

Sources: Washington Post, China Daily